A review of

Op Oloop

by Juan Filloy

Central question: Will love—or statistics—tear us apart?
Main characters: Op(timus) Oloop: Finnish statistician, romantic, and bourgeois intellectual; Franziska Hoerée, Op Oloop’s 22-year old fiancée; Kustaa Iisakki, daughter of Minna Uusikirkko; Minna Uusikirkko, Op Oloop’s former lover and literature professor; Obligatory plot summary: Set in 1930s Buenos Aires, Op Oloop follows its eponymous hero around the intellectual circles of the city for nineteen hours and ten minutes. After a minor traffic accident disrupts Op Oloop’s meticulously regimented schedule, he begins to unravel, and the narrative follows suit; Representative sentence: “When life is ordered as a mathematical equation, you can’t just skip a digit when you feel like it.”

When Op Oloop was first published, in 1934, two things happened: first, the book earned the praise of Sigmund Freud, who sent Filloy a letter of congratulations on his accomplishment; and second, it was eventually banned by the Buenos Aires public administration, which condemned it as “pornographic and offensive to morals and good habits.”

“As has already been stated,” Op Oloop reminds us, “some people’s brains border their anal regions.”

Fittingly, our hero is happily settled in the anal stage; order and self-control motivate his behavior. Part Pnin and part Werther, Op Oloop’s fragile sanity is held together by a “lucid imbalance.” A professional statistician, he processes the world with academic rigor, yet colors this view with a bizarre brand of romanticism. “Using censuses, diagrams, and rows and columns of figures, the static history of humanity can be described and synthesized,” Op Oloop rhapsodizes. “Plywood was my point of departure.” (He first found his calling working at the Aabo Timber Emporium Inspection Office.)

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Jessica Loudis

Jessica Loudis is a Brooklyn-based writer and media junkie. She currently works as a news aggregator for Slate, and is an associate editor at Conjunctions.

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